What's happened since TMI
Public opinion Public awareness of the nuclear energy issue grew as millions of Americans followed the drama at Three Mile Island on television and in newspapers and magazines.
In polls, public support for nuclear power vacillated between 50 and 60 percent while the number of Americans committedly anti-nuclear activist Richard Pollock of Critical Mass notes: "I'm very pessimistic about the future. There has been very little movement. It is almost as if Three Mile Island never occurred." Overseas development
The growth of nuclear power continues at a rapid pace. Breeder reactor development is proceeding in Britain and France.
In Sweden, 58 percent of the voters cast their ballots in favor of continued use of nuclear power. Cleanup effort
The reactor at TMI remains shut down. More than a million gallons of radioactive water and highly radioactive gases remain in the containment building. Cleanup efforts have centered in auxiliary buildings. Only this month did workers first set foot in the reactor building, and then only for 90 minutes.
Until the highly radioactive krypton gas can be removed from the containment building, it is impossible for workers to attack the trickiest and most dangerous aspect of the cleanup: removing the severely damaged core. The NRC:
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) set up a task force to analyze the mishap and make sure that other reactors were corrected to reduce the likelihood of a similar accident. Nuclear plant operators were required to change operating procedures, install new instrumentation, reorganize control rooms slightly, and, in general, modify their procedures in relatively minor ways. In all, the NRC compiled an "action plan" of over 200 proposed actions. In Congress
Conflicting signals were sent to the nuclear industry. Committees looking into Three Mile Island were concerned with plant safety, but members on the appropriations committees that set the NRC's budget repeatedly pressured it to resume licensing of nuclear reactors.
Congress failed to enact any significant nuclear legislation. In the utility industry
General Public Utilities Corporation, owner of TMI, filed a federal court suit seeking more than $500 million in damages from the plant's designer and supplier, the Babcock & Wilcox Company.
Utility executives pushed formation of two new safety institutions, the Nuclear Safety Analysis Center (NSAC) in Palo Alto, Calif., and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) in Atlanta.
NSAC monitors the performance of safety related equipment and proposes improvements. One NSAC project is a special display panel of 24 crucial reactor readings that can easily fit into existing control rooms.
INPO inspects existing reactors and evaluates them. The coal alternative:
Studies indicate future electricity demand could be met by a massive increase in coal-fired plants. But growth in use of coal has continually lagged behind the hopes of energy forecasters and could contribute markedly to environmental problems like acid rain.